Steelwomen – Helen Angell


Those moments still exist
when you changed your clothes
just to meet your mother from Wostenholm’s,
took the downhill walk in the softening sun
that turned the white fascias pink.

In your lungs there is air light as finches,
footsteps on warm gravel in new summer shoes.
One speeds to another —
iridescence, a yellow gold
serpentine chain.

There is so much freedom in happiness.

On Wellington Street, soft white feathers
like magnolia petals stick to the tarmac.
The women creak in brown paper coiled corsets,
bend their dinosaur spines over the wheel.
All the reds of the city bleed in that cotton triangle
tight against your chestnut hair,
in the splashes of hot resin that melt on your hands
and in the skin pink hatches
from scissors and shears, scythes and sickles,
fine as the folding fruit knives that silver
Sunday plates

and on Burgess Street,
the magnet-maker’s widow ties favours at the table.
Later, she spreads doilies, those peppered angels’ wings,
calls her daughter, whose hair in rags will pinch her sleep.

Salted dripping sags on white bread, tongue chasing
the brown marbling. That’s where the goodness is,
she says. There is sage in a pot on the windowsill.
Above the sink, soap in a box, cracked and grey-veined.
Each morning the widow strips to her vest, veiled
by the half net whose folds stiffen with condensation.
Over the Cornish Works a flock of birds oscillate
like iron filings.

His cheek in the photo
still dry under her goodnight kisses.


Helen Angell is a lover of brutalism and urban infrastructure. She has worked with the National Railway Museum, The Hepworth and Kelham Island Museum. Her poetry has appeared in Strix, The Blue Nib and The Cotton Grass Appreciation anthology.

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